Need a break from everything you have to complete before Thanksgiving? Look no further! This weekend the theatre department will be putting on their second round of shows of Little Shop of Horrors.
Little Shop of Horrors is known as a “comedy horror rock musical,” and emphasized the music genres of the early 1960s such as rock and roll, doo-wop, and Motown. It was written by Howard Ashman, American playwright and lyricist, and composed by Alan Menken, American film composer and pianist. The first production of the musical was in 1982 at an off-Broadway theater. It went on to become a film in 1986, directed by Frank Oz, who is also the voice of Yoda in Star Wars. First shown on Broadway in 2003, the play was a hit. In 2004, it went on the road for a US national tour and in 2009 the play went on tour in the UK.
With such a rich history, The University of Redlands is honored to have a production of the play on our campus. The Theatre Department faculty and students have been working together since mid-September to put on a show that everyone involved should be proud of.
University of Redlands senior, Becca Allen, plays the role of Ronette, one of three narrators of the play. Allen portrays Ronette’s character as both sassy and sweet and her voice is present during nearly every song of the play.
“Having plays and musicals every year is an awesome opportunity for students to see something serious, like Chekhov, or something ridiculous, like Little Shop of Horrors,” Allen said. “Theatre is an amazing world where an audience member can expand their mind to crazy possibilities; for example, a musical about man-eating space plant bent on world domination.”
Allen has a minor in vocal studies and a major in sociology and has a strong passion for singing and acting. Being a part of the musical gave her an opportunity to participate in something she really loves.
University of Redlands senior, John Reinschmidt, plays the lead role of Seymour. Seymour is a shy man with a fascination for plants who has spent most of his life working at “Mushnik’s Flower Shop.” In the play, Seymour deals with real issues and personal choices for the first time in his life.
“The theatre department faculty is made up of working professionals who are successful in the theatre world outside of the University,” Reinschmidt said. “So we as students are so lucky to be working with top creative talent in the business. We are also very lucky to have students taking on major roles in the creative process. Alex Ruiz (’16) is assistant director, Olivia Canning (’16) is the choreographer, Whitney Carter (’16) is our stage manager, and Katie Bettini (’16) has designed our amazing set. It has been so much fun watching my peers do incredible work and contribute to the process.”
Reinschmidt has been working on his acting and singing skills in college through a series of classes, performances, and even an experience abroad studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. This play will be his last at our university and is a culmination of all that he has learned.
The play is also part of Reinschmidt’s senior thesis. During their time at The University of Redlands, each student works towards completing a unique final project that encomposes much of what they have been studying over the years. Some capstones take the form of a large research essay, others take shape through an artistic lens.
“Musical theatre is not a realistic art form although we can use realistic acting techniques in our performances,” Reinschmidt said. “We don’t break out into song in our everyday lives. I want to explore the idea of what makes a character sing. I will also explore the process of song-spotting: How the book writers and lyricists determine what will be a book scene and what will be a song scene.”
Although both funny and freaky, the musical also deals with issues of morality as well as gender.
“Seymour faces real ethical questions and he makes bad decisions,” Reinschmidt said. “I wanted to show his inner conflict while still bringing humor and heart to the show. I hope audiences like Seymour but still are a little creeped out by his choices and rationalizations.”
The lead character of Audrey, played by University of Redlands senior Angela Michelich, and her relationship with Orin, played by University of Redlands senior Tom Roberts, demonstrate some of the real issues that women faced in the 1960’s. Audrey is a beautiful woman who works in the flower shop with Seymour. During the play one can see how she attempts to achieve her dreams of a better life while dealing with the sexist actions of the sadistic dentist, Orin. Michelich’s and Roberts’s portrayals of these characters leads to a great dialogue on how we think and work through certain gender issues that are quite similar in today’s society.
From speaking with those involved and those who have already seen the show, it is clear that everyone involved deserves the support of the student body.
“A shout-out to one of the most amazing, hardworking casts, crews, and production teams I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. You’ve made my senior year musical an incredible experience,” Allen said.
Little Shop of Horrors has a runtime of about ninety minutes and costs $8 for students and senior citizens and $12 for general admission. It is definitely worth your time. Come sit back, relax, and laugh your arse off as some of our most talented students perform at 8 p.m on Friday, Nov. 20, 8pm on Saturday, November 21, and 8 p.m and 2 p.m on Sunday, November 22 in The Glenn Wallichs Theater.